By Ronald L. Barrett, Jonathan P. Parry

ISBN-10: 0520252187

ISBN-13: 9780520252189

For centuries, the Aghori were often called the main radical ascetics in India: dwelling bare at the cremation grounds, meditating on corpses, conducting cannibalism and coprophagy, and eating intoxicants out of human skulls. in recent times, despite the fact that, they've got shifted their practices from the embody of ritually polluted components to the therapeutic of stigmatized illnesses. within the method, they've got turn into a wide, socially mainstream, and politically robust association. according to vast fieldwork, this lucidly written ebook explores the dynamics of pollutants, demise, and therapeutic in Aghor medication. Ron Barrett examines more than a few Aghor cures from ritual bathing to converted Ayurveda and biomedicines and clarifies many misconceptions approximately this little-studied crew and its hugely unorthodox, strong rules approximately disease and healing.

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Extra info for Aghor Medicine: Pollution, Death, and Healing in Northern India

Example text

Most ashram medications required a great deal of preparation, and both Introduction 25 Aghori healers and nondevotee patients emphasized the importance of the character and intention of the people preparing and distributing them. This character and intention allowed the duwa m of Aghor medicine to be faithfully transmitted from the most powerful renunciates to any and all who braved the skulls at the gates. Patients of all persuasions spoke enthusiastically about the immense power (shaktı )m and supernatural abilities (siddhis) of the Aghori.

Beginning with the hagiography of Baba Kina Ram, I discuss how Aghor emerged as an ideology of resistance against the ritual power of Brahmin priests and the economic and coercive power of local politicians and the merchant elite. Baba Kina Ram used his antinomian practices and healing powers to challenge maharajas, landlords, and priests. The Aghori were fond of telling how the Baba’s very public breach of pollution taboos was a challenge both to local authorities and to the taxes that they levied for such transgressions.

Manikarnika is named for the earring that fell to earth when Shiva shook with ecstasy over this earthly creation. 26). Lord Shiva is the ultimate ascetic of the shmashamn. Banaras is the city of Shiva. So it is said that Banaras is the maha mshmashamn, the Great Cremation Ground (Eck 1983). Each of these features—the Ganga, the shmashamn, and the city as a whole—functions as a kind of cosmic sink, a sacred dumping ground for The Cosmic Sink 31 humanity’s physical and metaphysical refuse. Yet although people who work as sweepers and cremation attendants are socially denigrated for managing the excreta of humanity, the same stigma does not apply to these sacred geographic features.

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Aghor Medicine: Pollution, Death, and Healing in Northern India by Ronald L. Barrett, Jonathan P. Parry


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